Category Archives: Book quotes

Quotes from Summerhill School, by A.S. Neill.

“An important aspect of the school is certainly the range of ages and interests represented in a community of under a hundred people, similar in size to a traditional extended family… The student population goes from seventeen right down to five years old. The structure provided by Summerhill includes both the democratic form of self-government and a hierarchical structure of social expectation by age. This pluralistic variety of age, sex and interests helps keep the school from being what Margaret Mead once asserted that it was, a ‘tyranny of the community’ over the individual.” (from the Editor’s Introduction)

“At Summerhill we have proved, I believe, that self-government works. In fact, the school that has no self-government should not be called a progressive school- it is a compromise school. You cannot have freedom unless children feel completely free to govern their own social life. When there is a boss, there is no real freedom. This applies even more to the benevolent boss than to the disciplinarian. The child of spirit can rebel against the hard boss, but the soft boss merely makes the child impotently soft and unsure of his real feelings.”

“There is a great amount of good fellowship and love in humanity, and it is my firm belief that new generations that have not been warped in babyhood will live at peace with each other- that is, if the haters of today do not destroy the world before these new generations have time to take control.

The fight is an unequal one, for the haters control education, religion, the law, the armies, and the vile prisons. Only a handful of educators strive to allow the good in all children to grow in freedom. The vast majority of children are being moulded by anti-life supporters with their hateful system of punishments.”

“Many psychologists believe that a child is born neither good nor bad, but with tendencies towards both beneficience and criminality. I believe there is no instinct of criminality nor any natural tendency towards evil in the child. Criminality appears in a child as a perverted form of love…

Crime is obviously an expression of hate. The study of criminality in children resolves itself into the study of why a child is led to hate. It is a question of injured ego.

We cannot get away from the fact that a child is primarily an egoist. No one else matters. When the ego is satisfied, we have what we call goodness; when the ego is starved, we have what we call criminality. The criminal revenges himself on society because society has failed to appreciate his ego by showing love for him…

It is only thwarted power that works for evil in a child. Human beings are good; they want to do good; they want to love and be loved. Hate and rebellion are only thwarted love and thwarted power.”

“Teachers from Israel have told me of the wonderful community centres there. The school, I’m told, is part of a community whose primary need is hard work. Children of ten, one teacher told me, weep if- as a punishment- they are not allowed to dig the garden. If I had a child of ten who wept because he was forbidden to dig potatoes, I should wonder if he were mentally defective. Childhood is playhood; and any community system that ignores that truth is educating in the wrong way…

We must allow the child to be selfish- ungiving- free to follow his own childish interests through his childhood. When the child’s individual interests and his social interests clash, the individual interests should be allowed precedence. The whole idea of Summerhill is release: allowing a child to live out his natural interests.”

“Possibly the greatest discovery we have made in Summerhill is that a child is born a sincere creature.”

“I might define myself as a true believer in humanity. My message has been this one; a child’s emotions are infinitely more important than his intellectual progress. I have tried, with I fear little success, to show that schools, by ignoring emotions, leave them to outside influences, the press, the kitsch of radio and TV, commercial TV ads, a plethora of magazines geared to a mentality of ten. Teachers cannot see the wood behind the trees, the wood that means life abundant, freedom from character moulding.”

“Many people believe deep down ‘If children have nothing to fear, how can they be good?’ Goodness that depends on fear of hell or fear of the policeman or fear of punishment is not goodness at all- it is simply cowardice. Goodness that depends on hope of reward or hope of praise or hope of heaven depends on bribery…

There is no case whatever for the moral instruction of children. It is psychologically wrong. To ask a little child to be unselfish is wrong. Every child is an egoist. The world belongs to him. His power of wishing is strong; he has only to wish and he is king of the earth. When he is given an apple his one wish is to eat that apple. And the chief result of mother’s encouraging him to share his very own apple with his little brother is to make him hate the little brother.

Altruism comes later, comes naturally if the child is not taught to be unselfish; probably never comes at all when the child is taught to be unselfish. The young altruist is merely the child who likes to please others while he is satisfying his own selfishness.

By suppressing the child’s selfishness the selfishness becomes fixed. An unfulfilled wish lives on in the unconscious. The child who is taught to be unselfish will remain stuck being selfish through life. Moral instruction thus defeats its own purpose.”

“We adults were corrupted in infancy; we can never be free about sex matters. Consciously, we may be free but I fear that unconsciously we remain to a large extent what conditioning in infancy made us.

The taboos and fears that fashioned sex behaviour are those same taboos and fears that produce the perverts who rape and strangle small girls in parks, the perverts who torture Jews and Negroes.

In Hitler’s Germany, the torture was inflicted by sexual perverts of the Julius Streicher type; his paper Der Sturmer was full of vile, perverted sex long before concentration camps were erected. Yet many fathers who berate the sexual perversity of the prison sadist do not apply the same reasoning to their own minor sadisms.”

“Religion says, ‘Be good and you will be happy’, but the adage is truer the other way round: ‘Be happy and you will be good.’ Forty-five years of Summerhill has convinced me that the latter version is the true one. Happiness is the right of all children, and it is evil to give them a hard life in order to prepare them for a life that may not contain much to make them happy. For too many parents still believe that a child is born in sin and has no right to happiness, only to mercy- when it repents. One cannot be bound and happy at the same time. The necessity for a child’s happiness should be the first tenet of all educational systems. A school should be judged by the faces of its pupils, not by its academic successes.

A recent visitor said to me, ‘Why don’t you teach your pupils about the life of Jesus, so that they will be inspired to follow in his steps?’ I answered that one learns to live, not by hearing of other lives, but by living; for words are infinitely less important than acts.”

“An incident that occurred at Summerhill during a spontaneous acting class one night emphasizes a child’s natural sense of reality if his reactions have not been warped by fear.
One night, I sat down on a chair and said: ‘I am St. Peter at the Golden Gate. You are to be folks trying to get in. Carry on.”
They came up with all sorts of reasons for getting in. One girl even came from the opposite direction and pleaded to get out! But the star turned out to be a boy of fourteen who went by me whistling, hands in pockets.
‘Hi,’ I cried, ‘you can’t go in there.’
He turned and looked at me. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘you are a new man on the job, aren’t you?’
‘What do you mean?’ I asked.
‘You don’t know who I am, do you?’
‘Who are you?’ I asked.
‘God,’ he said, and went whistling into heaven.”

“I personally have nothing against the man who believes in god- no matter what god. What I object to is the man who claims that his god is the authority for his imposing restrictions on human growth and happiness. The battle is not between believers in theology and non-believers in theology; it is between believers in human freedom and believers in the suppression of human freedom.

The battle for our youth is one with the gloves off. None of us can be neutral. We must take one side or the other: authority or freedom; discipline or self-government. No half measures will do, the situation is too urgent.”

“Why have not more Christians followed the path of their master? Roman Catholic and Protestant schools have long been beating boys as if Jesus had said, ‘Suffer little children to come unto me and be beaten.’ Can anyone imagine Christ beating a child? Catholics and Protestants give tacit support to our inhuman prisons and our cruel laws. I often wonder how much juvenile crime stems from the disillusionment of children taught scripture at home and in schools…

I am not going to argue about religion. I could tolerate it if its adherents lived their religion and turned the other cheek and sold all they had and gave it to the poor. I could admire it if the Vatican and Canterbury symbolized the poverty of the life of Jesus instead of parading their golden images and their capital investments. And I just sit and wonder why Christ’s followers became so anti-life, for they are disciples of the man who asked if any man was pure enough to cast out the first stone at a woman of easy virtue. Jesus gave out much love and charity and understanding but among his followers were John Calvin, who had his rival Servetus roasted over a slow fire, and St Paul, who hated women. In fairness I must grant that many a Christian has given out of love and charity, however.

One questioner at a recent lecture said, ‘You are a Humanist. Why don’t you teach Humanism?’ I replied that it is as bad to teach Humanism as it is to teach Christianity. We do not mould children in any way; we do not try to convert them to anything. If there is such a thing as sin it is the propensity of adults to tell the young how to live, a preposterous propensity seeing as adults do not know themselves how to live.”

“Communism was to do away with the one-man show… and it gave us Lenin and then Stalin. It looks as if one-man-ness is a branch of religion. Most people want a god to lean on and follow; most Britishers want a monarch to bow before. The question arises: can humanity ever do without leaders?

I am not a leader. I am a member of a community government. All I can say here is that I dislike leaders of any kind. I should define a leader as a man who is primarily self-centered, seeking power for its own sake. My reward is not praise, not a title, not followers, it is the simple one- joy in having done a job with all my heart and energy.”

“When such a challenger comes along, society will destroy him, as it did Homer Lane or Wilhelm Reich. It did not destroy Freud primarily because it could not find a valid reason. Both Lane and Reich were accused of crimes and made to appear in court, and therefore to society they were wicked men. It is the mud that sticks. Even today Oscar Wilde is rarely the brilliant and kindly wit; too often he is the homosexual.”

“But how can anyone be free when we were all moulded in our cradles? Freedom is a relative term. The freedom we think about in Summerhill is individual freedom, inner freedom. Few of us can have that inner freedom. In our school freedom means doing what you like so long as you do not interfere with the freedom of others. That is the outer meaning, but deeper down we strive to see that children are free internally, free from fear, from hypocrisy, from hate, from intolerance.”

“In fifty years of free children I have detected not only an absence of the competitive spirit, but also a total indifference to leaders. One can reason with free children, but one cannot lead them. True, my pupils lived in their own herd, but not with leadership.

A headmaster can be, indeed is, a father-figure but no child can make its school self-government a father-figure. I say that the future success of the world will come from the rejection of the father, the crowd leader. Most people accept father and mother, meaning that the great majority joins the Establishment, the anti-progress and usually anti-life [anti-vitality] majority. Our school systems, whether capitalist or Communist, foster this early moulding of the masses because wolf leaders are tough and powerful and ruthless, and their main aim is to kill and eat. In the human herd we have it in replica. The wars for gold or whatnot, the takeover bids which often make thousands unemployed, the bludgeoning of the young by sadistic cops. If the people were free such barbarities could not live.”

“It is of more value to understand children than to love them.”

“Females create life, males end it.”

If it’s chemical dependency you’re interested in, you might want to look into testosterone. TESS-TAHSS-TER-OWN!!- the most lethal substance on earth. And it does not come from a laboratory, it comes from the scrotum; a scotum located, interestingly enough, not far from the asshole. How fitting.

And, as it happens, all [the] male subcultures share a particular set of features: homophobia, coupled with an oddly ironic, complete, childlike trust in male authority. Men are attracted to powerful men. They also share a strong fear and dislike of women. This in spite of a pathological obsession with pussy. TESS-TAHSS-TER-OWN!!

So why are men like this? I think the overriding problem for men is that in life’s main event, reproduction, they’re left out; women do all the work. What do men contribute? Generally, they’re just looking for a quick parking space for some sperm. A couple of hits of hot jism, and the volume on the TV goes right back up. It’s my belief that most of these flawed male chromosomes should not be allowed to go forward for even one more unfortunate generation. But such is biology…

And let me tell you why all this happened. Because women are the source of human life. The first human being came from the belly of a female. And all human fetuses begin as female. The brain itself is basically female until hormones act on it to make it structurally male.

So, in reality, all men are modified females. Where do you think those nipples came from, guys? You’re an afterthought. Maybe that’s what’s bothering you. Is that what’s on your mind, Bunkie? That would explain the hostility: women got the good job, men got the shitty one. Females create life, males end it. War, crime and violence are primarily male franchises. Man-shit.

George Carlin, When Will Jesus Bring The Pork Chops?

Racism in pornography.

I also look at racism in pornography. Which very few people have actually ever looked at.

Now, what’s interesting, is [that] 1 in 4 films released into the market is called ‘Interracial’ and this is [involving] a black man and a white woman and this is geared to white men.

So the question becomes, ‘Why do white men want to watch black men penetrate white women over-and-over again?’ and I was really thinking about this because it was not that long ago that black men got lynched for even the ‘threat’ of such a thing. So what’s going on?

And then it dawns on me: If indeed pornography is about the debasement of women [then] what better way in a racist society to debase a white woman than have her penetrated over-and-over again by a body that has been marked as ‘demonized,’ as being seen as deviant. I.e.: The black male body.”

Dr. Gail Dines, Lecture on “How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality” [Part 2]

Fascists are made, not born.

“Hitler, like every other child, was born innocent. Like many other children at that time, he was destructively raised by his parents. Later, he would become a monster. He was a survivor of the engine of destruction known in turn-of-the-century Germany as child rearing. It was what I call the hidden concentration camp of childhood, the one that may never be brought to light…

It is our access to the truth that can enable us to prevent such people, who yearn for the “order” spawned by violence, from realizing their destructive plans. Fascism will have had its day once society ceases to deny the knowledge we already possess about the production of brutality, violence, and dehumanization in childhood and minimize its dangers. Once this has happened, it won’t have a chance in this society. It is not enough to unmask Stalinism and Nazism as mere lies. As long as we do not recognize the circumstances to which they owe their success, these and similar lies can continue to exist, dressed up in forms in keeping with the “Zeitgeist.” Fascism is a psychic attitude that floats the latent history of destruction to the surface.

The nature of fascism is not determined by political or economic circumstances. For a long time, people sought to “explain” Hitler’s success by pointing to the catastrophic economic situation of the Weimar Republic, and in doing so they sought to collectively deny the origins of Hitler’s urge towards revenge, destruction and power.”

Alice Miller, Breaking Down the Wall of Silence, pp. 54-58

Quotes from The Speed of Dreams, by Subcomandante Marcos

“The houses of rich Mexicans are protected with complicated security systems. They fear that the hand that is going to snatch what they have away from them is going to come from below. By exercising their right to schizophrenia, rich Mexicans are revealing not only the real source of their prosperity, but also their shortsightedness. They will be dispossessed, yes, not by improbable popular rage, but rather by an avarice that is even larger than theirs, that of the rich who are even wealthier than they. Misfortune will not enter by assaulting the great mansions at dawn, but through the front door and during office hours. The thief will not have the physique of the destitute, but of the prosperous banker.

The one who will be stripping everything from Slim, the Zambranos, Los Romo, the Salinas Pliegos, the Azcárragas, the Salinas de Gortaris, and the other surnames from the limited universe of wealthy Mexicans, do not speak Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Chol, or Tojolabal, nor do they have dark skin. They speak English, their skin is the color of money, they studied in foreign universities, and they are thieves with cultivated manners.

That is why armies and police forces will be of no use to them. They are preparing and entrenching themselves in order to fight against rebel forces, but their greatest enemy, the one that will annihilate them completely, practices the same ideology: savage capitalism.”

“It is what happens always: A fact is noted, and afterwards it is accepted as fate. Finally it is turned into a flag. If it is discovered one day that the fact was not completely true, or that it was completely false, the flag, more or less faded, would not stop waving.”
Antonio Machado, “Juan de Mairena”

“A bullet, a punch, a penis, prison bars, a judge, a government, in sum, a system, puts on a woman who doesn’t ask for forgiveness or permission a sign that reads, ‘Out of Service. Nonrecyclable Product.’

A woman must ask permission in order to be a woman, and it is granted to her if she follows what is shown in the assembly instructions.

Women should serve men, always following those instructions, in order to be absolved of the crime of being a woman.

Women confront this assembly process twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, from a moment they are born until the day that they die- at home, in the fields, on the street, at school, in the workplace, in transportation, in culture, in art, entertainment, science, government. But there are women who confront it with rebellion.

Women who, instead of asking permission, command their own existence.

Women who, instead of begging pardon, demand justice.

Because the assembly instructions say that women should be submissive and walk on their knees.

And nonetheless, some women are naughty and walk upright.

There are women who tear up the assembly instructions and stand up on their feet.

There are women without fear.

They say that when a woman moves forward, no men move back.

It depends, I say, from my “machismo-reloaded” perspective- a mixture of Pedro Infante and José Alfredo Jiménez.

It depends, for example, on whether the man is in front of the woman who is moving forward.

My name is Marcos; I have the personal flaw of being a man, macho, male. And the collective virtue of being what we are, we who are, zapatistas.

As such, I confess that I am astonished and amazed at seeing a woman raise herself up and seeing the assembly instructions shattering, torn into pieces.

A woman standing up is so beautiful that it makes one shiver just to look at her.

And that is what listening is, learning to look…

Cheers to these women, to our imprisoned compañeras, and to those who are gathered here.

Cheers for your having no fear.

Cheers for the valor that you pass on to us, for the conviction you grant us that if we do nothing to change this system, we are all accomplices to it.”

“If the police and the armies are the stewards of the citizenry’s good behavior in the face of seizure, exploitation, and racism, then who looks after good behavior in intellectual thought and theoretical analysis?

If the legal system, which sees the violent imposition of capital as being “rational and human.” has judges, guards, police, and jails, then what are their equivalent in the culture of Mexico, in research and academia, in theoretical work, analysis, and in the debating of ideas?

Answer: The intellectuals above, who say what is science and what is not, what is serious and what is not, what is debate and what is not, what is true and what is false. In sum, what is intelligent and what is not.

Capitalism doesn’t just recruit its intellectuals in the academy and in the culture; it also “manufactures” their sounding boxes and assigns them their territories. But what they have in common is their foundation: feigning humanism where there is only thirst for profits, presenting capital as the synthesis of historical evolution and offering the comforts of complicity through grants, paying for publicity and privileged colloquy. There is no appreciable difference between a self-help book and the magazines Letras Libres, Nexos, Quién? and TV y Novelas. Not in the writing, not in the price, not in their location in Carlos Slim Helu’s Sanborns. Except, perhaps, in that more of the latter two are sold and read. In the contents? All offer the impossible mirror to those who above are what they are.”

Quotes from “Understanding Power” by Noam Chomsky

[D]uring the 1980s the United States was the main factor in blocking two major international peace processes, one in Central America and one in the Middle East. But just try to find that simple, obvious fact stated anywhere in mainstream media. You can’t. And you can’t because it’s a logical contradiction- you don’t even have to go any grubby work with the data and the documents to prove it, it’s just proven by the meaning of the words themselves. It’s like finding a married bachelor or something- you don’t have to do any research to show there aren’t any. You can’t have the United States opposing the peace process, because the peace process is what the United States is doing, by definition. And if anybody is opposing the United States, then they’re opposing the peace process. That’s the way it works, and it’s very convenient, you get nice conclusions.

Well, in our society, we have things that you might use your intelligence on, like politics, but people really can’t get involved in them in a very serious way- so what they do is they put their minds into other things, such as sports. You’re trained to be obedient; you don’t have an interesting job; there’s no work around for you that’s creative; in the cultural environment you’re a passive observer of usually pretty tawdry stuff; political and social life are out of your range, they’re in the hands of the rich folk. So what’s left? Well, one thing that’s left is sports- so you put a lot of the intelligence and the thought and the self-confidence into that. And I suppose that’s also one of the basic functions it serves in the society in general: it occupies the population, and keeps them from trying to get involved in things that really matter. In fact, I presume that’s part of the reason why spectator sports are supported to the degree they are by the dominant institutions…

But the point is, this sense of irrational loyalty to some sort of meaningless community is training for subordination to power, and for chauvinism. And of course, you’re looking at gladiators, you’re looking at guys who can do things you couldn’t possibly do… But it’s a model that you’re supposed to try to emulate. And they’re gladiators fighting for your cause, so you’ve got to cheer them on, and you’ve got to be happy when the opposing quarterback gets carted off the field a total wreck and so on. All of this stuff builds up extremely anti-social aspects of human psychology. I mean, they’re there; there’s no doubt that they’re there. But they’re emphasized, and exaggerated, and brought out by spectator sports: irrational competition, irrational loyalty to power systems, passive acquiescence to quite awful values, really. In fact, it’s hard to imagine anything that contributes more fundamentally to authoritarian attitudes than this does, in addition to the fact that it just engages a lot of intelligence and keeps people away from other things.

Anybody who wants to be President, you should right away say, ‘I don’t want to hear that guy anymore.’

[T]he terminology we use is heavily ideologically laden, always. Pick your term: if it’s a term that has any significance whatsoever- like, not “and” or “or”- it typically has two meanings, a dictionary meaning and a meaning that’s used for ideological warfare. So, “terrorism” is only what other people do. What’s called “Communism” is supposed to be “the far left”: in my view, it’s the far right, basically indistinguishable from fascism. These guys that everybody calls “conservative,” any conservative would turn over in their grave at the sight of them- they’re extreme statists, they’re not “conservative” in any traditional meaning of the word. “Special interests” means labor, women, blacks, the poor, the elderly, the young- in other words, the general population. There’s only one sector of the population that doesn’t ever get mentioned as a “special interest,” and that’s corporations, and business in general- because they’re the “national interest.” Or take “defense”: I have never heard of a state that admits it’s carrying out an aggressive act, they’re always engaged in “defense,” no matter what they’re doing- maybe “preemptive defense” or something.

The internal documentary record in the United States goes way back, and it says the same thing over and over again. Here’s virtually a quote: the main commitment of the United States, internationally in the Third World, must be to prevent the rise of nationalist regimes which are responsive to pressures from the masses of the population for improvement in low living standards and diversification of production; the reason is, we have to maintain a climate that is conducive to investment, and to ensure conditions which allow for adequate repatriation of profits to the West. Language like that is repeated year after year in top-level U.S. planning documents, like National Security Council reports on Latin America and so on- and that’s exactly what we do around the world.

So the nationalism we oppose doesn’t need to be left-wing- we’re just as much opposed to right-wing nationalism. I mean, when there’s a right-wing military coup which seeks to turn some Third World country on a course of independent development, the United States will also try to destroy that government- we opposed Peron in Argentina, for example. So despite what you always hear, U.S. interventionism has nothing to do with resisting “Communism,” it’s independence we’ve always been opposed to everywhere- and for quite a good reason. If a country begins to pay attention to its own population, it’s not going to be paying adequate attention to the overriding needs of U.S. investors.

See, capitalism is not inherently racist- it can exploit racism for its purposes, but racism isn’t built into it. Capitalism basically wants people to be interchangeable cogs, and differences among them, such as on the basis of race, usually are not functional. I mean, they may be functional for a period, like if you want a super-exploited workforce or something, but those situations are kind of anomalous. Over the long term, you can expect capitalism to be anti-racist- just because it’s anti-human. And race is in fact a human characteristic- there’s no reason why it should be a negative characteristic, but it is a human characteristic. So therefore identifications based on race interfere with the basic ideal that people should be available just as consumers and producers, interchangeable cogs who will puchase all the junk that’s produced- that’s their ultimate freedom, and any other properties they might have are kind of irrelevant, and usually a nuisance.

As a matter of fact, the United States has been the most economically protectionist country in history. We’ve traditionally had the highest protectionist tariffs in the world, so much so that one leading economic historian in a recent book (published by the University of Chicago, no less) describes us as “the mother country and bastion of modern protectionism.” So for example, in the late nineteenth century, when Europe was actually toying around with laissez faire for a brief period, American tariffs were five to ten times as high as theirs- and that was the fastest economic growth period in American history.

And it goes on right until the present. The United States developed a steel industry a century ago because it radically violated the rules of the “free market,” and it was able to recover its steel industry in the last decade or so by doing things like restricting imports from abroad, destroying labor unions to drive down wages, and slamming huge tariffs on foreign steel. I mean, the Reaganites always talked enthusiastically about “market forces,” but they refused to allow them to function- and for a very simple reason: if market forced had been allowed to function- and for a very simple reason: if market forces had been allowed to function, the United States would no longer have an automobile industry, or a microchip industry, or computers, or electronics, because they would have just been wiped out by the Japanese… James Baker proudly proclaimed to a business audience in 1097 that Ronald Reagan “has granted more import relief to U.S. industry than any of his predecessors in more than half a century”- which was far too modest actually; Reagan probably provided more import relief to industry than all his predecessors combined in that period.

Of course, the “free market” ideology is very useful- it’s a weapon against the general population here, because it’s an argument against social spending, and it’s a weapon against poor people abroad, because we can hold it up to them and say “You guys have to follow these rules,” then just go ahead and rob them. But nobody really pays any attention to this stuff when it comes to actual planning- and no one ever has.

So the fact that Russia had pulled itself out of the West’s traditional Third World service-area and was developing on an independent course was really one of the major motivations behind the Cold War. I mean, the standard line you always hear about it is that we were opposing Stalin’s terror- but that’s total bullshit. First of all, we shouldn’t even be able to repeat that line without a sense of self-mockery, given our record. Do we oppose anyone else’s terror? Do we oppose Indonesia’s terror in East Timor? Do we oppose terror in Guatemala and El Salvador? Do we oppose what we did in South Vietnam? No, we support terror all the time- in fact, we put it in power…

None of these guys [Truman and Churchill] had anything against Stalin’s crimes. What’s more, they had nothing against Hitler’s crimes- all this talk about Western leaders’ principled opposition to atrocities is just a complete fabrication, totally undermined by a look at the documentary record. It’s just that if you’ve been properly educated, you can’t understand facts like these: even if the information is right in front of your eyes, you can’t comprehend it.

[S]tates are not moral agents; they are vehicles of power, which operate in the interests of the particular internal power structures of their societies.

Now, there are consistent libertarians, people like Murray Rothbard- and if you just read the world that they describe, it’s a world so full of hate that no human being would want to live with it. This is a world where you don’t have roads because you don’t see any reason why you should cooperate in building a road that you’re not going to use: if you want a road, you get together with a bunch of other people who are going to use that road and you build it, then you charge people to ride on it. If you don’t like the pollution from somebody’s automobile, you take them to court and you litigate it. Who would want to live in a world like that? It’s a world built on hatred.

The whole thing’s not even worth talking about, though. First of all, it couldn’t function for a second- and if it could, all you’d want to do is get out, or commit suicide or something. But this is a special American aberration, it’s not really serious.

[T]he basic principle I would like to see communicated to people is the idea that every form of authority and domination and hierarchy, every authoritarian structure, has to prove that it’s justified- it has no prior justification. For instance, when you stop your five-year-old kid from trying to cross the street, that’s an authoritarian situation: it’s got to be justified. Well, in that case, I think you can give a justification. But the burden of proof for any exercise of authority is always on the person exercising it- invariably. And when you look, most of the time these authority structures have no justification: they have no moral justification, they have no justification in the interests of the person lower in the hierarchy, or in the interests of other people, or the environment, or the future, or the society, or anything else- they’re just there in order to preserve certain structures of power and domination, and the people at the top.

So I think that whenever you find situations of power, these questions should be asked- and the person who claims the legitimacy of the authority always bears the burden of justifying it. And if they can’t justify it, it’s illegitimate and should be dismantled. To tell you the truth, I don’t really understand anarchism as being much more than that. As far as I can see, it’s just the point of view that says that people have the right to be free, and if there are constraints on that freedom then you’ve got to justify them.

MAN: But you could say that “to truck and barter” is human nature- that people are fundamentally materialist, and will always want to accumulate more and more under any social structure.

CHOMSKY: You could say it, but there’s no reason to believe it. You look at peasant societies, they go on for thousands of years without it- do these people have a different human nature? Or just look inside a family: do people “truck and barter” over how much you’re going to eat for dinner? Well, certainly a family is a normal social structure, and you don’t see people accumulating more and more for themselves regardless of the needs of other people.

In fact, just take a look at the history of “trucking and bartering” itself: look at the history of modern capitalism, about which we know a lot. The first thing you’ll notice is, peasants had to be driven by force and violence into a wage-labor system they did not want; then major efforts were undertaken- conscious efforts- to create wants. In fact, if you look back, there’s a whole interesting literature of conscious discussion of the need to manufacture wants in the general population. It’s happened over the whole long stretch of capitalism of course, but one place where you can see it very nicely encapsulated is around the time when slavery was terminated. It’s very dramatic to look at cases like these…

Well, there was a little problem in Jamaica: since there was a lot of open land there, when the British let the slaves go free they just wanted to move out onto the land and be perfectly happy, they didn’t want to work for the British sugar plantations anymore. So what everyone was asking in Parliament in London was, “How can we force them to keep working for us, even when they’re no longer enslaved into it?” Alright, two things were decided upon: first, they would use state force to close off the open land and prevent people from going and surviving on their own. And secondly, they realized that since all these workers didn’t really want a lot of things- they just wanted to satisfy their basic needs, which they could easily do in that tropical climate- the British capitalists would have to start creating a whole set of wants for them, and make them start desiring things they didn’t then desire, so then the only way they’d be able to satisfy their new material desires would be by working for wages in the British sugar plantations.

There was very conscious discussion of the need to create wants- and in fact, extensive efforts were then undertaken to do exactly what they do on T.V. today: to create wants, to make you want the latest pair of sneakers you don’t really need, so then people will be driven into a wage-labor society. And that pattern has been repeated over and over again through the whole entire history of capitalism. In fact, what the whole history of capitalism shows is that people have had to be driven into situations which are then claimed to be their nature. But if the history of capitalism shows anything, it shows it’s not their nature, that they’ve had to be forced into it, and that that effort has had to be maintained right until this day.

I think people should be extremely skeptical when intellectual life constructs structures which aren’t transparent- because the fact of the matter is that in most areas of life, we just don’t understand anything very much. There are some areas, like say, quantum physics, where they’re not faking. But most of the time it’s just fakery, I think: anything that’s at all understood can probably be described pretty simply. And when words like “dialectics” come along, or “hermeneutics,” and all that kind of stuff that’s supposed to be very profound, like Goering, “I read for my revolver.”

I mean, sure, there are some market forces operating- but the reality is, they’re pretty much off around the edges. And when people talk about the progress of automation and free-market “trade forces” inevitably kicking all these people out of work and driving the whole world towards kind of a Third World-type polarization of wealth- I mean, that’s true if you take a narrow enough perspective on it. But if you look into the factors that made things the way they are, it doesn’t even come close to being true, it’s not even remotely in touch with reality. But when you’re studying economics in the ideological institutions, that’s all just irrelevant and you’re not supposed to ask questions like these: you have all the information right in front of you, but these are simply not matters that it is proper to spend time talking about.

MAN: Noam, we’ve been discussing a number of activist strategies and problems- I’d like to talk for a moment about some of the reasons why people don’t get involved in activism. Suppose somebody convinced you, at the level of your belief in most things, that it was impossible to change the country, that the basic institutional structures we have now are going to remain in place for the next 200 years- you know, more or less adapted, but the same basic structures. I’m wondering, would you behave any differently?

NOAM: Zero.

MAN: You would behave exactly the same way?

NOAM: Same way. In fact, you don’t even have to make it a hypothetical- when I first got seriously involved in anti-Vietnam War activity, I was a hundred percent convinced that absolutely nothing could be done. I mean, into 1965 and ’66, if we wanted to have an anti-war meeting in Boston, we’d have to find six topics- you know, “Let’s talk about Venezuela, Iran, Vietnam, and the price of bread, and maybe we can get an audience that’ll outnumber the organizers.” And that went on for a long time. It looked impossible.

MAN: So if you thought that the current situation was going to continue, just persist forever, you would still do it?

NOAM: Yes.

Now, of course, it’s extremely easy to say, “The heck with it- I’m just going to adapt myself to the structures of power and authority, and do the best I can within them.” Sure, you can do that. But that’s not acting like a decent person. Look, if you’re walking down the street and you see a kid eating an ice-cream cone, and you notice there’s no cop around and you’re hungry, you can take the ice-cream cone because you’re bigger and just walk away. You can do that- probably there are people who do. But we call them pathological. On the other hand, if they do it within existing social structures, we call them normal- but it’s just as pathological, it’s just the pathology of the general society.

Actually, you might want to take a look at an interesting volume published recently by U.N.I.C.E.F., about treatment of children in the rich countries- it’s yet to be reviewed in the New York Times, or anywhere else in the United States, but it’s really quite revealing. It was written by a very good American economist named Sylvia Ann Hewlett, and she identified two basic patterns of treatment, a “Continental-European/Japanese” model and an “Anglo-American” model- which just are radically different. Her conclusion is, the Continental-European/Japanese pattern has improved the status of children and families; the Anglo-American pattern has been what she calls “a war” against children and families. And that’s particularly been true in the last twenty years, because the so-called “conservatives” who took over in the 1980s, aside from their love of torture and misery abroad, also happen to be passionately opposed to family values and the rights of children, and have carried out social policies which have destroyed them.

Actually, I think that the United States has been in kind of a pre-fascist mood for years- and we’ve been very lucky that every leader who’s come along has been a crook. See, people should always be very much in favor of corruption- I’m not kidding about that. Corruption’s a very good thing, because it undermines power. I mean, if we get some Jim Bakker coming along- you know, this preacher who was caught sleeping with everybody and defrauding his followers- those guys are fine: all they want is money and sex and ripping people off, so they’re never going to cause much trouble. Or take Nixon, say: an obvious crook, he’s ultimately not going to cause that much of a problem. But if somebody shows up who’s kind of a Hitler-type- just wants power, no corruption, straight, makes it all sound appealing, and says, “We want power”- well, then we’ll all be in very bad trouble. Now, we haven’t had the right person yet in the United States, but sooner or later somebody’s going to fill that position- and if so, it will be highly dangerous.

Feminism is about equality??

Most people in the United States think of feminism or the most commonly used term “women’s lib” as a movement that aims to make women the social equals of men. This broad definition, popularized by the media and mainstream segments of the movement, raises problematic questions. Since men are not equals in white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal class structure, which men do women want to be equal to? Do women share a common vision of what equality means? Implicit in this simplistic definition of women’s liberation is a dismissal of race and class as factors that, in conjunction with sexism, determine the extent to which an individual will be discriminated against, exploited, or oppressed.
bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center

“So, just kill yourself!”

Some critics of the pessimist often think they have his back to the wall when they blithely jeer, “If this is how this fellow feels, he should either kill himself or be decried as a hypocrite.” That the pessimist should kill himself in order to live up to his ideas may be counterattacked as betraying such a crass intellect that it does not deserve a response. Yet it is not much of a chore to produce one. Simply because someone has reached the conclusion that the amount of suffering in this world is enough that anyone would be better off not having been born does not mean that by force of logic or sincerity he must kill himself. It only means he has concluded that the amount of suffering in this world is enough that anyone would be better off never having been born. Others may disagree on this point as it pleases them, but they must accept that if they believe themselves to have a stronger case than the pessimist, then they are mistaken.

Naturally, there are pessimists who do kill themselves, but nothing obliges them to kill themselves or live with the mark of the hypocrite on their brow.

Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, p.50

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